The audience lights are dim, and the music is loud. Everyone is standing in the aisles with their hands stretched towards the sky, eyes closed, in an act of total surrender to God. Some people are weeping, some clapping, some laughing, and some even swaying with the music. One thing is for sure, if you’re not feeling it then you need to have a spiritual tune up.
Aren’t those the words the preacher speaks when he enters the pulpit after a wonderful worship service? I think we all know what he means, and I know we all love those services. Why then are those services rare even in Pentecostal circles? Why are people always trying to find that right church that checks off every one of their preferences allowing them to “truly worship”?
I had the chance to attend a mega church in Texas. The lighting, music, audio, and media were all conducive of excitement. They began with music before the service and offered time for the congregants to prepare their hearts to focus fully upon God. They sang worship songs that everyone could relate to and lead the congregation into a deep level of spiritual worship. I have also been in churches that were small with no lighting, poor sound quality, and maybe a piano and a couple of singers, where the spirit of God came down in droves. So what constitutes true worship?
In Pentecostal churches we love to feel the excitement of worship. When the person beside us is jumping up and down, there are people clapping, and the whole room is filled with electricity. It drives the worship inside our hearts, and makes us want to run the pews and dance around the pulpit. It is easy for us to get revved up when everyone else is feeling it, too. However, when those around us are checking their watches and whispering back and forth it is very difficult for us to worship God.
As a worship leader this is the hardest part of my job, how do we get people to move beyond the emotions into true worship? It is easy to worship when the situation is right. It is easy to worship when those around us are already worshiping God, but that should not be the reason that we worship God.
In John chapter 4 Jesus had a very important encounter with the lady at the well in Samaria. In verse 23 he tells her, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (NIV).” Such an important statement, but so often overlooked.
The woman was a Samaritan and she was taught to worship God at Bethel when her forefathers worshiped and she had asked Jesus why the Jews worshiped at the temple instead of Bethel. Her question spawned Jesus’ statement. It was no longer going to matter if you worshiped here or there, what mattered is how you worshipped.
Our worship is based on one thing, and one thing only. Our worship is a reaction to what Jesus did for us. For some people salvation produces excitement, and they run around the church. For others it is solemn reverence, and they kneel at the altar. Some people laugh and some cry, but each of us in our own way react to the work of salvation that Christ has given us.
Overtime, that initial reaction begins to fade away. The more we worship God, the more it becomes a ritual to us and we lose our response to him. We notice that we can sing the words while we are making a shopping list and trying to decide what to cook for lunch. We do not want to admit it, but our worship becomes nothing more than a tradition that we do every Sunday.
You know how many aged church goers I have heard tell a new Christian, “Oh, you’re excited now, but soon it will fizzle out and you will be like the rest of us.” Sadly, it is true, after a few months they take their salvation for granted like the rest of us do.
We try to rationalize our indifference by saying, “I am a mature Christian, and I do not need that type of worship to be close to God”, but our justification just covers up our waning desire. I know you don’t like what I am saying, but you know it is true. We all get into a rut, and we find ourselves going through the motions.
How then to we break through? We try to follow our own methods by going from one church to the next looking for the services that will boost our passion. We find evangelists and revivalists who can pep us up. We look for the next big thing to help us encounter God. Nevertheless, when the services are over that same old feeling creeps back in, causing us to begin looking for the next high.
We cannot light the fire on our own. No matter where we look, who we follow, or what we do, trying on our own will not fulfill that deep longing need of true worship. Some people feel if the music team plays a particular type of music, some want the lights dim, others want them bright, and some want the preacher to scream and shake his fist while he preaches the same message every week. But none of these things will cause a lasting effect in our worship.
A few years ago Nike had a slogan, Just Do It, which explains how we regain the fire of God in our worship. There is no method, there is no secret, the only way to truly see a change in worship, is choosing to worship. When everyone bases their ability to worship on the style of worship, the setting, or the type of preacher, no one is completely satisfied. To completely satisfy everyone’s preferences we would have to organize churches by labeling them: The contemporary screaming preacher church, the traditional screaming preacher church with dim lighting, the contemporary church with flashing lights. No church will check off every box on a person’s preference list.
The only way that we can truly worship is to choose, no matter what is happening, to worship. No matter the musical style, choose to worship. No matter the lighting, choose to worship. No matter the preacher, choose to worship. When we think about what God has done for us, salvation, healing, blessing, etc., we should be prompted to worship God. Our worship is an act of expression to God of our appreciation, love, and reverence to him. Running the aisles, kneeling, and lifting our hands to heaven are all expressions to God for the work he has done. That choice to worship moves the heart of God.
If we want to begin seeing God move in our worship, it is time that we stop trying to make him move, and just let ourselves worship him.
(c)2013 Scott Rasco
Article Published in the January 2014 edition of the COG Evangel.